Survey finds majority would support tax hike for better schools

Survey finds majority would support tax increase for better schools

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"I think we're going to have to decide where the money is going to go, exactly where it's going to go before we start allocating any new money," Mayor Burchett said. "I think we're going to have to decide where the money is going to go, exactly where it's going to go before we start allocating any new money," Mayor Burchett said.
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By MIKE KRAFCIK
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - A survey out Wednesday shows Knox County voters would support a tax increase for more education funding. The survey was sponsored by the Knoxville Chamber.  

One question the survey asked - would you support a property tax increase if all the additional revenue went to public schools?  57% said yes, 35.6% said no, 7.3% said they're undecided.  

The chamber says the survey was done to get an understanding of the perception of education in Knox County.

It's information that could be used as support for proponents who want more tax dollars for schools in budget requests to Knox County Commission.  

The survey questioned 900 registered voters, randomly sampled and divided between nine Knox County commission districts. The surveys were taken during the first two weeks in November.  

"There's never been a survey like this done in Knox County, and this provides with some information going forward," said Jennifer Evans, the vice president of public policy and education at the Knoxville Chamber.

The chamber's survey shows that 90 percent of county residents believe education is the most important factor affecting the economy.

A majority would support a tax increase if the revenue went to the school system, but Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett thinks not enough money ends up in the classroom.

"Is it getting to the classroom? They ask those questions the time. Do you support it if does that? But in fact, we're seeing that it apparently does not go where it needs to go," Burchett said.  

Commissioners want to wait and see what the school budget proposal is. 

"I'm not ready to say I'm ready to going to increase taxes or vote to increase taxes, because I don't know what that plan looks like," said Knox County Commissioner Mike Hammond.

"I'm concerned with what the final figure is. School board, let's see how much money you're asking for and how that money will be spent," said Knox County Commissioner R. Larry Smith.

Many commissioners have said they want more money to go to teachers and technology.

"We're losing too many good teachers to the surrounding counties," Hammond said.

With the budget process already underway, Superintendent Jim McIntyre wants more money for teachers, technology upgrades and improvements in school security.

The question becomes how much will it cost and where will the money come from?     

"I think we're going to have to decide where the money is going to go, exactly where it's going to go before we start allocating any new money," Burchett said.    

The survey was privately funded by Randy Boyd and five others for $25,000.

Boyd, who is Gov. Bill Haslam's special advisor on higher education, was part of the group to give money to the chamber for advertisements supporting the $35 million increase for Knox County Schools in 2012.  

More than 75 percent of those surveyed agreed somewhat or strongly that the school system should receive more funding. 

If additional revenue became available, right at 80 percent said base pay for teachers should be a high priority, just over 90 percent want access to technology to be a high priority, but around 60 percent called more instructional time a low priority.    

Among the other findings in the survey, 48 percent say academic standards are too low and 66 percent say their local school is effective.

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